I Still Believe In Free Speech As A Victim Of Hate Speech

I Still Believe In Free Speech As A Victim Of Hate Speech

Freedom of speech matters more than my fear.
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After the Neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, a lot of my friends took to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to express their outrage. Outrage is gratifying to express, if not all that helpful – my article last week discussed ways in which the response to Charlottesville has been lacking, and why that’s frightening and alienating to some of the people most affected by it. Setting that aside, the main responses to the events have been guides on how to successfully punch your local Nazi and why we should make an exception to the First Amendment when it comes to hate speech.

Our free speech laws are pretty clear.

According to the American Bar Association, while the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit speech that a listener might find hurtful, wrong, or offensive, it does prohibit “fighting words” — that is, statements that could reasonably provoke an individual to react violently, such as racial or ethnic slurs.

“Fighting words” are one thing. Hate speech is another.

In the past, the Supreme Court has struck down state laws prohibiting hate speech, as legislating the intention behind someone’s words is prohibited under the First Amendment. In the United States, only the action is punishable, not the specific intent behind it.

Most of the people I know find this utterly reprehensible. They believe that by expressing views they see as racist, offensive, and violent, the marchers in Charlottesville and white supremacists across the country are forfeiting their right to free speech. They would like to see hate speech outlawed and punishable by prison time, or better yet, they’d like hate speech to be a community matter, one that can be dealt with by finding a local Trump supporter and beating them with a baseball bat – and facing no legal repercussions for their actions.

That’s not what I want.

That may come as a surprise to some people, since I’m Jewish, and Jewish people were among the principal targets of the Charlottesville marchers. I’d love it if there were a way to silence Nazis without undermining the First Amendment.

But there isn’t. Because whatever limits we place on free speech can be used against us.

Right now, the cultural conversation is shifting leftwards, toward tolerance and away from the right wing. But history is a pendulum, and should the pendulum swing back toward the right, the same limits we’ve placed on free speech can be levied against us. One of the first actions a fascist society takes is limiting free speech. When Hitler came to power in Germany, Joseph Goebbels, his Minister of Propaganda, informed the press that in order to continue to write, they had to be members of his press organization, and that any articles critical of the Third Reich would be considered acts of treason. Not only did the Third Reich enforce these rules on the press, they enforced them on individual citizens, by encouraging individuals to inform on their neighbors and often to take matters into their own hands.

I’m Jewish, and I’m against the types of hate speech legislation that most leftists I know are eagerly espousing. It may seem attractive in the short term, but in the long term, it’s more damaging to our society than a few hundred Neo-Nazis marching in Virginia. In my view of things, ant-Semitism and racial hatred have been around for thousands of years.

Let them talk.

I’d rather know exactly who I’m dealing with.

Cover Image Credit: Newtown graffiti / Flickr

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Yes, I Am A Female College Student, And Yes, I Am Pro-Life

You CAN be both.

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As a twenty-something year old woman at a liberal arts college, I often find myself on the not-so-popular end of pro-choice or pro-life debates. And, if I'm being completely honest, I generally try to avoid those debates altogether. But this past weekend, some of my fellow students, three buses of students from my old high school (including my little sister), and millions of people from across the country marched in Washington D.C. and all over the country in support of the Pro-Life movement.

While I went twice in high school and found it to be one of the most formative experiences of my life (it definitely made the way into a few of my college admittance essays), I wasn't able to attend the march this year. But in solidarity with my friends and family, I want them to know - and the whole world to know - that they are not alone in their fight for life.

Growing up in 13 years of Catholic schooling, I never got to hear the opposing side of the Pro-Life debate. Sure, I knew what Pro-Choice was, but in all honesty, it was a kind of vague, somewhat demonized stance that I didn't understand. Major talk in devils-advocate scenarios were always the extreme cases that people make for abortion like incest or rape, not real-life (common) critiques that would be valuable to learn to talk about.

Coming to college - and a liberal arts, non-religiously affiliated one at that - definitely made me grow up pretty quick and realize that, at least it would seem like I was the minority opinion, not the majority. And as anyone who has led a sheltered life to be confronted with the world can attest: it was not a comfortable eureka moment. In my first year of college, I was faced with a decision: I, after 13 years of school and 4 years in a pro-life club, could slowly remove myself from the debate and remain quietly pro-life or I could change my opinion to be popular with my peers. While I am proud to say that I didn't conform to the latter, I'm not necessarily proud to say that I did the former either.

During my freshman year, I joined Butler's pro-life club, Bulldogs for Life. (Yes, when I say the name to people out of context, they tell me it's nice that I care about dogs, and are then generally turned off when I explain that it's pro-life.) It was a small club, with inconsistent meeting times, and only about 10 members at each meeting. I, reluctantly, admit that in that year I probably only went to about 5 meetings and didn't go to almost any of the "engagement" activities. I was scared. There was such a stigma about being pro-life that I didn't even know existed. It went from quickly from an argument and stance that I made primarily through religion, to almost not being able to utilize these lines of argument because the people I was dialoguing with didn't even adhere to the same religion as me. It wasn't until my junior year that I felt really comfortable talking to my peers about my beliefs.

While I've always been taught and raised to believe that I could do and be anything I wanted to be - regardless of my gender - I was confronted with the idea that because I didn't believe in a woman's right to choose to murder her own child before it was born, I was against ALL women's rights. People where implicitly arguing that I didn't believe that women had the right to control their own lives. I believe that a woman doesn't have the right to choose whether a child lives or dies. We would be horrified if a woman killed her infant baby a few months after birth, but people go on Women's Marches lobbying for the right to do the same a few months before the birth.

Moving from a part of the body to the outside world doesn't make someone human, and that's basically, in a crude nutshell, what the difference is between a baby being in the womb and not. I know that there are plenty of lines of debate about what actually makes someone human. That is not possibly a debate that I could write in an Odyssey article to satisfy anyone. What I can do is say I FIRMLY believe that a child is a child from the moment it is conceived by its parents, and that baby should have the right to live the same to any other human being like you and me right now.

I don't expect to change the world with this article. I don't even expect that many people to agree with me. But please know, all of you high school students who went on the March for Life: it WILL get harder. When you graduate and move on to college, you will be faced with a choice to stand up and stick to what you believe or to quietly wait on the sidelines. You may feel pressured to not voice or even change your opinion. I hope that all of you know - and all the college students too - that there are people out there that believe that women can have it all, and ALL their children can, too.

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